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Reply to Fabian Fagerholm from Ted (Re: Questions for all candidates: the DPL as a creator of public opinion)

On Sun, Mar 05, 2006 at 10:45:47PM +0200, Fabian Fagerholm wrote:
    1. Is Debian affected by what happens in the FOSS world in
    general?  How? Please give examples if you can.

Debian is very much affected by the FOSS world in general.  The biggest
example I can think of is the patent regulations that were used to
attack the free mp3 encoding programs.  Because of that patent threat,
Debian is very careful about the kind of mp3 support it ships by

    2. Has the definition (written or implied) of freedom in Debian
    changed over the years? How?

I don't think it has changed.  Debian was always about freedom and
transparency for the users, while understanding that the project itself
was not necessarily a democracy and that some internal issues would stay
hidden from the public.   It is the software, bug reports, and actual
developement process that is open, has been open from the beginning, and
will stay open as long as the project is called "Debian GNU/Linux".  Our
politics are as open as they can be.

For instance, we don't go around shouting to the world who all the deep
pockets are that are sponsoring us.  We have a private mailing list for
developers only.  I don't think these are bad things.

    3. Is the understanding of freedom in Debian up to date with
    regard to the current state of the world? How does this show?

Debian "feels" less libertarian now than it did eight years ago.  Back
in the day, it was unheard of for Debian Developers to be banished from
Debian's mailing lists and official IRC channels just because of a
personals political, social, or religious viewpoint.  These things have
been happening more and more frequently, leading to a perception of
creeping authoritarianism.

Debian is big enough that a class of developers have arisen who are more
into the politics of the game than into executing a beautiful bit of
code and sharing it with the world.

    4. Does Debian have a good relationship with well-known
    organisations such as FSF, Creative Commons or <insert your own
    example(s) here>? Why/why not?

Debian has always been fairly neutral toward other projects.  Each
developer is an ambassador of the project.  Some vocal developers may
complain about Ubuntu; but the vast majority have been very positive
toward it.

I like to think that, even though we've allowed Thomas Bushnell to be a
Debian Developer, that hasn't compromised our relationship with the FSF.
Our relationship with the FSF isn't as close as it could be, and I'd
like to see that change.  We are a distinct and independant project from
the FSF, and in the early days we worked hard to make sure that
distinction was clear, but being the official GNU distribution is a
pretty cool thing, worth keeping.

    5. As DPL, what would you rather work on in your vision-defining
    capacity: defining a special Debian-freedom, or encouraging Debian
    to embrace other definitions? Why and how?

I like the vision we've always had.  It doesn't need updating.  Openness
and transparency toward our users, and complete independance for our
developers to participate in the policy making process and to maintain
their packages however they see fit, as long as they fit with policy.

Finally, please tell us as much as you want about what has led you
towards Debian and free software instead of non-free alternatives. Why
have you taken this path in life? Why is it important to you

When I was in high school, everyone was switching from MSDOS to
Microsoft Windows.  I started with a Commodore 64.  This was cool,
because I could program anything on it.  And because every program came
in source code form, I assumed this was how computing was done.  I liked
being able to look at other peoples source code to see how things were

When I made the switch to MSDOS, I felt alienated.  Where was the source
code?  Where did these binary blobs come from?  Who made them and how?
Someone showed me QWBASIC.  It felt very limited and confining compared
to all the multimedia and graphics facilities of the C64. Then high
school started and I had free access to the Borland Turbo family of
languages, so I grudgingly adapted to a world where I could program if I
really wanted to, but where it wasn't easy.  Borland at least took most
of the pain away with their excellent documentation.

The thing that Borland did right, which Richard Stevens copied in his
famous books, was to give a really clear and obvious example of HOW to
use each function in the API.  You could cut and paste the code from the
help page, compile it, and it would just work.  Debian isn't quite at
that level yet, but over the years I've noticed certain key API
functions now have sample code snippets, which is a good thing.

When the high school switched to Windows, that was the final straw.
Here was this GUI, finally they added some graphical facilities to DOS,
and the interfaces were all locked away!  I was a broke high school
student from a family struggling with a mortgage.  I couldn't afford the
$3000 for a Microsoft developers kit.

Having experienced the freedom of being able to program MY computer the
way I wanted, I couldn't tolerate the arrogance of Microsoft in locking
up their machines tighter than the hood of a Rolls Royce.  At least
Rolls Royce has an excuse; their cars are kick-ass.

Just then, around 1993, the buzz around Linux was immense.  So I started
downloading it.  Being broke, in a small blue-collar town far away from
any sizeable college, it took a while to figure out how to program
Linux, but I stuck with it.  The freedom of having the source code to
every single thing on the system was worth more than the agony of
learning a system from scratch that was far more complex than my simple

So here we are.  And I want to share my freedom with YOU.  I think
Python today is almost at a point where it is as fun to use as Commodore
Basic was.  All that is missing is the Borland style examples, but many
Python modules even have those in their main() routine.  We just need
some simple routines to put pixels on the screen and push sound samples
out to the video card, and we're gold.  I was hoping Scheme or LISP
would be it, but Python and now Ruby look like they are winning.  It a
long time, but we're finally getting to the point we were at twenty
years ago.


It's not true unless it makes you laugh, but you don't understand it until it makes you weep.

Eukleia: Ted Walther
Address: 5690 Pioneer Ave, Burnaby, BC  V5H2X6 (Canada)
Contact: 604-430-4973

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